Providing your body with nutrient-dense calories is an important part of keeping up the energy to move. But can your post-workout snack choices actually help you get more benefits from exercise?
Yes, what you eat after exercise (and what foods you eat the rest of the day) definitely affects how your body responds to physical activity and what it is able to do.
Think of your body as a race car. When this car is speeding down a track, it needs a lot of fuel to keep going. Similarly, our bodies will burn carbs and fat during exercise, so post-workout refueling efforts are important to refuel.
For most people who don’t exercise or overtrain, eating enough is more important than what you eat when it comes to exercise. For recreational exercisers, the most important thing is to space out protein throughout the day, eat enough protein, and eat enough carbs. This means you need to eat enough calories to fuel your workout. Not eating enough calories could stunt muscle growth or leave you with too little energy to exert yourself to the maximum physical output.
Be sure to meet your protein needs. Protein allows muscles to grow and become stronger. Take enough after exercise and throughout the day. People who exercise regularly should consume between 1.1 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, depending on the amount and type of exercise you do.
If you snack after a workout, rather than a full meal, favor a combination of carbohydrates and protein to help replenish energy stores and provide the sustained energy your body needs to repair muscle. you just worked. Waiting until the next meal to eat can lead to feelings of lethargy and foggyness if you’ve just had a longer or more intense workout, says Boateng.
Finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated with water. Not only is it essential for restoring fluids lost through sweating, but it helps restore blood volume. Exercise can lead to water loss (through sweat), and therefore a drop in blood volume. If we don’t replenish, less oxygen and sugar can get to the brain and other organs, leading to dizziness, fatigue, and more.
Snack ideas for after exercise
These snack ideas provide the right combination of protein and carbs for your post-workout needs:
1. Crackers and canned tuna
Or try another canned fish. This combo contains carbs, protein, and sodium, which often need to be replenished after a workout. Opt for crackers made from whole grains for even higher nutritional value.
2. Berries and Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is packed with protein, which helps the body recover, repair, and rebuild. Calcium, found in yogurt, contributes to muscle growth. The berries naturally sweeten the yogurt and add just enough carbs to the mix.
3. Fruit Smoothie
A blend of frozen strawberries, blueberries, bananas, cinnamon, and yogurt provides the same benefits as berries and yogurt, with the added boost of potassium (thanks to bananas). Potassium is lost when we sweat and needs to be replaced.
4. Hard-boiled eggs with whole-grain or sourdough toast
Eggs are loaded with protein, but low in calories. Whole grains provide the necessary macronutrient carbohydrates. Plus, they’re packed with essential nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and minerals that help with recovery.
5. Turkey slices with cheese and apple slices
This nutritious snack offers lean protein (the turkey), more protein from the cheese, and nutrient-dense carbs. These are all key parts of the refueling process.
6. Protein bar
A protein bar can be great for filling up, but aim for a bar with at least 10-12g of protein. And check the sugar level, look for bars with 4g or less of added sugars.
7. Toasted wholemeal bread with nut or seed butter and naturally sweet preserves
Whole grain bread provides carbohydrates rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Top it with a nut or seed butter, such as peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Nut and seed butters are a snack rich in energy, protein and healthy fats. Canned natural sugar easily converts to glucose, which often needs to be topped up post-workout to avoid the feeling of having run out of fuel.
8. Hummus with seed crackers and raw vegetables
You’ll be filling up on carbs and sodium with this snack. Don’t settle for carrot sticks.
9. Fruit and nut butter
Top apple or banana slices with almond butter. This combination provides healthy fats and nutrient-dense carbohydrates.
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